Las Vegas – In terms of the hot hatch segment, the M135i is the odd one out. Whereas its rivals are powered by four-pots and either front wheel- or four-wheel driven, the BMW has a six-cylinder engine that propels the M’s rear wheels. The latest 2 Series, which replaces the 1 Series Coupé, fulfils a similar role in the compact coupé segment.
In line with BMW’s contemporary product-naming strategy, the Two supersedes the 1 Series Coupé in the same way that the 4 Series is now the coupé version of the 3 Series sedan.
The 2 Series undoubtedly looks better than the outgoing 1 Series Coupé. Even though it is wider (32 mm) and longer (72 mm), it still has that compact stance that one’d associate with this new range. That’s impressive if you consider the newcomer’s wheelbase has also increased by 32 mm.
The headlamp clusters have a narrower design – definitely an improvement on the chunky units of the 1 Series Coupé range. The front and rear tracks are wider by 41 and 43 mm respectively and although the M235i casts a bigger shadow, BMW claims the same kerb weight for the new car compared with that of the previous model.
The M235i’s interior doesn’t look a lot different to that of the latest 4 Series – which is a good thing. The iDrive controller, handbrake and the driving experience control switch accompany the gearlever atop the transmission tunnel. As with some of BMW’s other models, the experience control allows the driver to toggle the suspension, variable sport steering and traction control system settings.
The switches and infotainment screen on the M235i’s facia is similar to those of the 3- and 4 Series, while the steering wheel reminds me a lot of the M6 Gran Coupé’s tiller.
Behind the wheel
As is the case with most international launches, our time behind the wheel was limited. However, we did have the chance to do a few laps on one of the in-field tracks at Sin City’s Motor Speedway.
The turbocharged, 3,0-litre straight six engine at the heart of the M235i has been developed to deliver 240 kW from 5 800 to 6 000 r/min (225 kW at 5 800 r/min previously). Peak torque is also up from 400 N.m between 1 200 and 5 000 r/min to 450 N.m between 1 300 and 4 500 r/min.
This is all sent to the rear axle via BMW’s 8-speed automatic transmission. What’s the result? The car simply feels more alive and quicker to respond to throttle inputs. The engine is eager to rev and should you wish to pass the 6 000 r/min mark (where peak power is delivered) it encourages you to rev all the way to 7 000 r/min.
The power delivery doesn’t taper off and moments before the needle sweeps to the redline you can simply pull on the right steering wheel-mounted paddle to engage the next transmission ratio.
Unlike the 135i Coupé, which featured a hydraulic steering setup, the M235i has an electric power steering configuration. It feels rather light (and direct), but does contribute to the nimbleness of the 1,5-tonne coupé.
Should the opportunity to indulge in wilder driving antics presents itself, the newcomer’s DSC system can be disengaged. This action activates BMW’s active differential brake system, which utilises the ABS to limit wheelspin at the rear end when the M235i accelerates out of corners.
Buyers who are looking for a purer driving experience will have the option to specify a mechanical limited slip differential from BMW’s M Performance parts catalogue.
The M235i is one of those products that best illustrate BMW’s expertise in the compact segment. It strikes a near-perfect balance between a compact sportscar and a comfortable daily driver. A claimed zero to 100 km/h time (with the auto ‘box) of 4,8 seconds is only 0,2 seconds slower than Mercedes-Benz’s all-wheel driven A45 AMG.
Apart from several cosmetic options (see pictures above), the optional sports suspension coincides with a reduced ride height (by 20 mm) courtesy of different dampers and shortened coil springs. There are also 19-inch light alloy wheels, an M Performance braking system and an aerodynamic package on the extra-cost specifications list – in fact, BMW offers a wider range of M Performance parts on the Two than any other of its products.
The fact that enthusiasts can indulge themselves with all these M Performance parts might just be the perfect stop until the M2 (or 2M?) arrives – but BMW’s engineers won’t comment on plans for that model whatsoever.
*Click here for more information about South Africa’s 2 Series model range.
Model: BMW M235i AT
Engine: 3,0-litre, six cylinder, turbopetrol
Power: 240 kW between 5 800 and 6 000 r/min
Torque: 450 N.m between 1 300 and 4 500 r/min
0-100 km/h: 4,8 seconds (claimed, 5,0 seconds for manual version)
Fuel consumption: 7,6 L/100 km (claimed)
CO2: 176 g/km
Top speed: 250 km/h
Price: R538 346
Maintenance plan: 5 years/100 000 km
Service intervals: determined by onboard computer